Lake Como, Lago di Como, is Italy’s deepest and most spectacular lake. It’s shaped like an upside-down Y and has a long perimeter measuring about 75 miles. Its wavy shoreline is sprinkled with resort villages and palatial villas with rose-laden arbors, hanging wisteria and bougainvillea. Situated in the shadow of the snow-covered Rhaetian Alps, Lake Como is encircled by mountains and hills that afford it majestic Alpine vistas.
There are lots of things to do in Lake Como and lots to see. The throngs of visitors in the summer may threaten to diminish its dreamy mystery and somewhat faded aristocracy, but Lake Como’s enduring appeal lives on. This breathtaking region is still the perfect marriage of natural and man-made beauty.
Photo Credit: villadeste.com
Explore Lake Como:
Lake Como is located in Italy’s Lombardy region and is part of the northern Italian Lakes District. Its southern tip is situated about 30 miles north of the city of Milan, between the Italian-Swiss border and Milan. It’s a favorite weekend getaway destination for people from Milan so the weekends tend to be more crowded, especially in July and August.
Spring and Fall are usually the best times to visit as it is less crowded and the weather is mostly pleasant. In winter, most services are closed as Como is highly seasonal, but you can ski in the mountains nearby.
Where to Stay on Lake Como:
Given that this region is one of the most (if not the most) affluent regions in Italy, many hotels cater to those clients who are willing to pay more for luxury. Though Lake Como has a diverse selection of hotels, many are converted villas with well-landscaped grounds. Nearly all of the famous lake resorts are pricey, but most of the smaller lakeside hotels are more affordable. Here are some of the top grand hotels on Lake Como:
1. The Grand Hotel Tremezzo offers several creature comforts, including a lakeside location with a small private beach, spectacular vistas across the water to Bellagio, gracious service and great amenities—a lush park, luxurious guest rooms where quaint furnishings are accented with modern amenities, rooftop suites with their own private terraces and outdoor heated jacuzzis, and three heated swimming pools (one of which sits on floats on the lake). The hotel is very expensive, though, it’s not well situated for shopping or nightlife, and there’s a rather busy road between the hotel and lake.
2. The Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio is an opulent (and one of the oldest) 5-star historic lake hotel. It features elegant rooms that are lavish and impeccable; gilded public areas with marble and thick, colorful carpets; breakfast served in a ballroom; a great pool and health club; lush gardens; and good low-season deals. This luxury though is going to cost you.
3. The Posta Design Hotel, a boutique hotel in the central location of Piazza Volta, a pedestrian-only piazza in downtown Como is newly renovated with comfortable rooms and friendly service. It has very few amenities—no breakfast, gym, or minibars in rooms—and parking is at a public garage about five minutes walk away. So it’s not as pricey as the others listed here.
4. One of the most luxurious hotels in Italy, the Villa d’Este has been welcoming Europe’s rich and famous for ages, and entertaining them in guest rooms that are still furnished in the Empire style. Guests will relish the excellent service, a top-notch restaurant (La Veranda restaurant offers spectacular views and first-rate cuisine) and beautiful grounds—whimsical pavilions, temples, mini forts, and mock ruins ensure a stroll in the lush gardens is full of amazing surprises. Note that not all rooms have lake views, some guests might think the hotel is too formal, and all this luxury comes with a hefty price tag.
Attractions and Things To Do in Lake Como:
1. Basilica di San Fedele in Como – At the heart of Como’s medieval quarter, this expressive cathedral, the city’s first, warrants a visit. Often likened to a clover leaf, it features three naves and three apses, with the apse walls and ceiling completely frescoed, as well as the ceilings above the altar.
2. Bellagio – Known as the pearl of the lake and sometimes called the prettiest town in Europe, Bellagio is situated in a beautiful setting where the three branches of Lake Como converge. It’s easy to get from here by vaporetti or ferry to other cities on the lake. With geraniums blushing in every window and staircases veiled with bougainvillea, Bellagio always seems to be perfectly adorned—an impossibly enchanting place.
Photo Credit: lakecomobeb.com
3. Como – This walled town, located on the south shore of the lake, has a historic center with neat cobbled pedestrian streets that wind their way past bustling squares and lively cafés. The town also features several walking paths nearby. Como is only partly a resort: it’s also traditionally industrial heritage, with deep roots in textile production, particularly silk and the silk trade.
4. Duomo – Como’s imposing Gothic-Renaissance duomo was built between the 14th and 18th centuries, and was capped off with a high octagonal dome. The facade of this marble-clad cathedral, which was added in 1455, has statues of two of Como’s most famous sons, Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, whose writings are among the most important documents from antiquity. Inside, the artwork includes Holy Conversation by Luini, the Marriage of the Virgin Mary by Ferrari, and a fresco cycle by Morazzone.
Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org
5. Museo Didattico della Seta (Silk Museum) – As mentioned above, silk is produced in Como and the Silk Museum preserves the history, from silkworm litters to textile finishing machinery, of a region that remains the major manufacturer of Europe’s silk (about three-fourths). The staff is not only friendly, but helpful too. In addition to giving you an overview of the museum, they are also happy to provide brochures and information about local retail shops where you can buy silk.
6. Basilica di Sant’Abbondio – This beautiful church, located in Como’s industrial quarter, was rebuilt in Romanesque style by the Benedictines between 1050 and 1095. Inside, the new basilica has four aisles and a nave that converge on a presbytery with a semicircular apse decorated with a cycle of 14th-century frescoes by Lombard artists. The church also has two notable bell towers rising at the end of the external aisles, in the middle of the nave.
7. Villa Carlotta – Located south of Menaggio, the magnificent Villa Carlotta has lush, beautiful gardens with more than 14 acres of azaleas and dozens of varieties of rhododendrons. The blossoms are in full bloom in late spring or early summer, with the height of the blossoms being in late April to early May. The villa’s interior warrants a visit too, with its original 18th-century furniture and art works, especially if appreciate the romantic sculptures of Antonio Canova (1757–1822). His most notable piece is Cupid and Psyche. The villa can be reached by boat from Bellagio and Como.
Photo Credit: en.wikipedia.org
8. Villa del Balbianello – Located in the village of Lenno, the Villa del Balbianello was used as a set in the movies Casino Royale and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. It is relentlessly picturesque and is one of the most dramatic locations anywhere on Lake Como, providing a genuinely stunning marriage of architecture and lake views. The villa is composed of loggias, terraces, and palazzini (tiny palaces), all spilling down verdant slopes to the lakeshore, where you’ll find an old Franciscan church, a magnificent stone staircase, and a statue of San Carlo Borromeo blessing the waters. The villa is usually accessible by boat from Como and Bellagio, which leaves you at the village of Lenno.